Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Natural Resources Defense Council

Mapping oil usage

From the Natural Resources Defense Council

America buys 18.8 million barrels of petroleum products every day, accounting for more than 20% of all global usage. This can drain roughly $1 billion on average every day out of the economy. This oil use also accounts for more than a quarter of the heat-trapping carbon pollution emitted by various sources in the U.S.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters developed an interest in a more detailed understanding for the causes of our addiction. Specifically, we were curious about which geographic areas were most oil dependent, and thus, driving the country’s oil addiction the most.

First, we looked at all the total 2010 oil consumption in every county in the United States. We visualized that oil consumption in the map below.

gasoline consumption map.JPG

We can determine the nation’s oil addiction “hot spots” based on the figures plotted in the map above. It turns out a disproportionately small number of counties in metropolitan regions drive the nation’s oil use. In fact, just 108 counties out of the nation’s 3,144, or about 3.5% of the total consume more than 10% of the nation’s oil. This suggests that we should target policies and practices aimed at reducing oil dependence to a small geographic portion of the nation.

Consumption per person in these top oil-guzzling counties can give help further with targeting; those counties with high per-capita consumption levels afford the biggest opportunities for reductions. For example, Los Angeles County’s population is much larger than Dallas County’s, on average each person consumed much less in the former. If the per capita consumption in the latter were halved, while still higher than the average Los Angeleno it could save more than a half-million gallons of gasoline a year! 

Top 10 Counties Driving Our Oil Addiction

RankingofCounties.JPG*Note: The Missouri figures stood out as an outlier in the data set, possibly due to poor or inconsistent reporting so both on the map and in this table the numbers should be taken with a giant grain of salt.

On the other hand the Houston area and Dallas area are particularly addicted to oil, both in total and per person use. To find out more about where your county stacks up in this picture, click here to access and use a cool googlemap designed by friends at the Sierra Club.

I went looking for this after spotting this Express News story and figuring there had to be more to it than that. DC Streetsblog adds on to the conversation, but I have to agree with their commenters that per capita consumption is the better way to think of this. Still, it’s useful information and a reminder that another spike in gas prices will have a greater effect on the Houston area than other parts of the country. A growth strategy geared towards more and more development of the exurbs just isn’t going to be sustainable in the long term.

EPA 3, Texas 0

How many times will the courts have to bench-slap our Governor and Attorney General before they get the message that Texas must comply with the same laws as every other state? It’s three and counting.

Texas had asked the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block a program that awards construction permits to major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, such as cement kilns and oil refineries. Every other state has begun the permit program or allowed EPA to award permits for them.

On Wednesday, the court denied Texas’ request for a stay, clearing the way for the EPA to regulate major sources in Texas. A three-judge panel wrote that Texas didn’t satisfy “the stringent standards” required for a stay.

Environmental groups said the decision shows that Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott have filed frivolous lawsuits that amount to political statements about global warming.

“Texas is the only state in the nation that refused to let anyone – the state or the feds – issue permits for carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming,” David Doniger, the chief global warming lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote on his blog. “The court’s ruling now assures that EPA will be able to fill that void for as long as Texas’ leaders continue their grandstanding, so that companies can continue building their projects, but with reasonable limits on all of their dangerous pollutants.

You can read that blog post here, which includes a copy of the court’s order. The story has one of Abbott’s usual whiny statements about how this will kill jobs. Which would be funny if the Lege weren’t likely to adopt a budget that will eliminate various state departments and cause school districts to lay off thousands of teachers. Anyway, Abbott and Perry will continue to shop for a court in the hope that they’ll eventually find one that will pat them on the head and tell them how very special and not like those other 49 states they are.

On a related note, those of you in Dallas will have an opportunity to have your voice heard about this. From the inbox:


Public Hearing in Dallas on Friday, January 14, 2011

Texas Public Voices to be Unified, asking for Federal Implementation Plan to take over State Permitting process

HOUSTON – Tomorrow in downtown Dallas, the Environmental Protection Agency will come out to face public, industry and political comment regarding its recent highly controversial decision to assume greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting functions for the state of Texas Citizens from around the state will converge on the city to voice their hopes for EPA’s decision to step in to the void left by Texas’ refusal to reckon with global climate change.

In December, the EPA clarified that they will be responsible for issuing Clean Air Act permits for GHG emissions on the state’s behalf. This decision came after months of oftentimes acrimonious volley between the federal agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on the underlying flaws and limitations of the state’s air permitting process. Texas, the country’s leading emitter of pollutants which contribute to global climate change, has staunchly refused to either regulate greenhouse gases or even accept the opinions of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on human contribution to climate change.

“For the good of Texans’ health, Texas’ business and our planet’s future, our state has to be a leader in dealing with greenhouse gas emissions”, implores Matthew Tejada, executive director of Air Alliance Houston. “Instead, our state leaders chose to stick Texas’ collective head in the sand, so we applaud the actions of the EPA in putting sensible science and policy ahead of local, shortsighted and divisive politics.”

Texans hope the proposed Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) will allow EPA to work with Texas’ industry and TCEQ for a cleaner, healthier state that abides by the same regulations as the other 49 states in our union. The time has come for Texas politicians to put the long term interests of our state ahead of their next election cycle and work with federal officials to ensure regulatory clarity and protection for public health across the state of Texas.

Here’s where the hearing will be: Crowne Plaza Hotel Dallas Downtown, 1015 Elm Street Dallas, TX 75202 map). Be there if you can.

New flash: We spend a lot on gas

No surprise, Texans are more vulnerable to gas price increases than people in most other states.

While most Americans felt the pinch of higher gasoline prices in 2008, drivers in Texas paid an especially heavy toll, according to a national study released Tuesday.

Texans on average spent 6.8 percent of their household income, or $2,622, on gasoline last year, the seventh-highest percentage of any state, said the study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group in Washington.

Yet Texas ranked near the bottom, at 37, in taking steps that could help reduce the state’s dependence on oil, like boosting public transit options or providing incentives to buy fuel-efficient hybrid cars.

The report highlights both the burden record oil prices last year had on U.S. consumers and what states are doing to make their citizens less vulnerable to such spikes.

The report gives us one more good reason to be thankful for the existence of Mississippi, whose residents spend over nine percent of their income at the pump, thus making us look not so bad by comparison. You can see an overview of the report here and the full report itself here.